Andrés Nin

In the R.I.L.U.

The R.I.L.U. and the International Trade Unions Federation

(25 August 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 72, 25 August 1922, pp. 543–544.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The International Federations are today as they have always been in the past the most powerful ramparts of reformism. Their most noted leaders are furnished by the A.D.G.B. (German Trade Union Federation) and the greater part of their Central Committees are in Berlin and in consequence find themselves under the direct influence of the most typical representatives of reformism. This German, and consequently, collaborationist influence is reinforced further by the fact that half of the most important adhering Federations (Woodworkers, Engineers and Transport Workers, etc.) belong to the German organization.

The reformist leaders are so firmly fixed to their posts and have created such a powerful bureaucratic apparatus which reduces to a minimum the initiative of the masses whose will has to encounter innumerable obstacles in order to find expression, that the fight of the opposition, revolutionary elements against these leaders has become very difficult. Nevertheless it is of the greatest interest and of the highest importance for the conquest of the workers’ movement by the revolutionary elements. This has been fully understood by the R.I.L.U. which has devoted its particular attention to this task On the occasion of the Charter Congress, representatives from the Central Committees of the Russian unions met in Moscow with the foreign comrades of the corresponding industries and trades. Many conferences were held. They exchanged information on the situation of the proletariat of the various industries and trades in their respective countries, and studied with the greatest care the most appropriate method for the winning over of the International Trade Union federation. In accordance with the decision of the Congress which decided that the revolutionary unions should remain inside the federations in order to conquer them from within, no heed was paid to those who proposed the immediate formation of independent federations, and it was decided to form international propaganda committees to conduct the fight in accordance with instructions furnished by the Congress.

Fifteen committees were formed: Engineers, Miners, Textile, Transport, Building, Typographical, Woodworkers, Provision Workers, Leather Workers, Clothing Workers, Municipal Workers, Teachers, Chemical Workers, Agricultural Workers and clerical professions. Since their formation these committees have done very intensive work. The savagery with which they have been attacked by the organs of the International Federations shows how efficacious has been the tactic employed. At the most important international congresses, the delegates of the All-Russian Trade Union Federation or the representatives of the national revolutionary minorities have made the voice of the opposition heard, and have defended the slogans and propositions of the Propaganda Committee. It would be very difficult to give a detailed exposition of the work accomplished by these committees, but we shall give a broad outline of the results attained.

In the course of one year the Propaganda Committees have succeeded in creating an opposition movement in every national federation. In the wood, building and transport industries, this opposition has become a real menace to the reformist leaders.

In the metal industry the revolutionary tendency, although somewhat slow, advances progressively and surely. Everywhere there are strong opposition minorities. In Bulgaria, Russia and Norway, the executives have been completely captured. In Czecho-Slovakia, out of 75,000 organized metal workers, 35,000 are under Communist influence; in Italy nearly a half. In Germany most of the local sections are in the hands of the Communists. There are further unions expelled because of their revolutionary tendencies.

In the transport industry; the opposition is strong in every country. In Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Holland and of course in Russia, we can rely upon large forces. The transport workers of China and Japan are also under revolutionary influence. In Germany the Seamen’s Union (Schifffahrtsbund) adhered to the R.I.L.U. The number of seamen in the A.D.G.B. is insignificant. A few months ago propaganda bureaus for the seamen of all countries were formed in Novorossisk, Odessa, Sevastopol, Batum, Feodosia, Petrograd, Archangelsk, and have achieved great results in the diffusion of revolutionary principles. Under their initiative, public meetings are held, Russian and foreign papers are published. Other bureaus have been formed in other European ports.

The International Transport Workers will hold their Congress in Vienna on the 2nd of November. A Russian delegate will probably go there to take part, but a refusal to admit must be expected. The reformist leaders demand from the Russian unions as they have already demanded from the Bulgarian, that in order to be admitted they withdraw from the R.I.L.U.

The Woodworkers’ Federation has 800,000 members, of whom 380,000, nearly a half, are from Germany. Their president is Arnov, the successor of Leipart, who continues to play a great role in the Federation, which is the most reformist. We have also everywhere strong opposition sections. In Germany 120,000 members are under our influence. In Finland, France, Bulgaria, Holland, Italy (30,000), Jugo-Slavia, Norway, Russia (160,000 members), there are trade union executives who take their stand on the revolutionary platform. In England we can count on a strong opposition which is making daily progress, and some of whose local organizations are directly affiliated to the R.I.L.U. In Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and other countries, the opposition gains ground daily. In Czecho-Slovakia there are two central organizations; the German, with 13,000 members adhering to Amsterdam ami the Czech, with 28,000 members adhering to the R.I.L.U., having been expelled from the General Trade Union Federation.

The Woodworkers’ International finds its main supports in England, Germany and Austria. In other countries its influence is less considerable and in America non-existent.

The International Federation of Building Workers has its offices in Hamburg. Of its 800,000 members 460,500 belong to Germany. The opposition in this country is very strong. It suffices to mention the expulsion of Brandler, Bachmann and Heckert, whose revolutionary activity in the trade union field caused serious alarm to the reformist leaders. In Czechoslovakia, the German Union of 39,000 members is reformist, and the Czech (40,000 members) is under Communist influence. In Austria 25% of the 80,000 adherents are for us; in Italy the Communist section is very powerful and conducts its action against the reformist leaders with admirable energy and discipline.

The twelve national federations in America are all reactionary and do not adhere to the Building Workers’ International. The opposition is making good progress, notably in Chicago and San Francisco.

The English Building Workers’ Union (400,000 members) adheres to Amsterdam but does not take part in the International Federation.

A Congress has been called for the 3rd October, to which the All-Russian Trade Union Federation, has been invited. This Congress will be of very great importance, because in spite of this invitation we know that the intentions of the reformist leaders have not changed with regard to the revolutionary elements. We are able to say that a secret conference will be held in Amsterdam in which will be decided the continuation of the expulsion policy and its recommendation to. the Builders’ Congress.

This sketch of the progress of the revolutionary opposition will show the importance of the work accomplished by our propaganda committees. At the 2nd Congress, there will be held conferences at Moscow, in which comrades from all countries will participate. We shall be able to verify the work accomplished and adapt our future work to circumstances. To sum up: – in the most important International Federations, half of their forces are with us, to the advantage of the R.I.L.U., that its influence is exercised over a greater number of countries. If the reformist leaders continue their splitting tactics we shall be obliged to consider, in spite of ourselves, the creation of new International Federations. The progress that we have already made, allows us to suppose that our effectives will be far superior to those of the reformist organizations. In the words of comrade Lozovsky, on the occasion of the preliminary proceedings for the formation of the international Propaganda Committees: “The R.I.L.U. does not propose to split the International Trade Union Federation, but nevertheless it does not fear it. For each attack of the reformists, for each of their attempts to expel the revolutionary unions, we shall answer with a counter-attack, by the creation of international revolutionary groupings of trades and industries. Our committees will not transform themselves into Red Industrial International Federations, except in the case where there is no other way for the revolutionary elements of a given branch of industry.

Last updated on 5 May 2020